Posts Tagged 'surviving a recession'

Recession Porn

imagesI thought I was in the minority with my avid reading of endless articles about foreclosures and credit crunch victims, but it seems the trend is so pervasive that the New York times has coined a phrase to describe it – ‘Recession Porn.’

One of my best friends in Sedgefield has gone from being a knock-out blonde with a sea-view house, who shopped only at Woolworth’s Food for her husband and two cute kids to being a separated single-mother living with her dad. Luckily she’s still a knock-out.

Her husband lost his income when the property market dived, their relationship dissolved under the massive financial stress, they are dealing with the bank’s lawyers trying valiantly to keep their house, and life is bloody awful for her right now.

I take her out for lunch regularly and we joke that her life is a horrible soap opera which I need to have updated. And there is something compelling about watching a drama like this unfold, like not being able to resist looking at a car smash.

I think people, on some primal level, like functioning in an environment of struggle. You  hear  people who lived during the London Blitz describe it as the best time of their lives.

There’s something very appealing about surviving rough times. Something rewarding about an economic crisis that makes growing your own vegetables and jam making  a cool activity. Thriftiness, mending and recycling have ousted conspicuous consumption and people are embracing the zeitgeist.

Of course my friend’s story, while being an extremely unpleasant experience, is relatively benign. She and her kids have a roof over their heads, school fees are covered and, while it may not be organic, they have plenty to eat.

Struggle is only enjoyable if we can overcome it. There is zero thrill for those who have lost everything and are trying to survive the crucifying stress of being outsiders in a world that still functions, unless you are a wilderness survivalist, on having access to money.

How to make your house pay its way

Earning a living, without a formal job, in a sea-side village with no real industry has meant we’ve always been teetering on the edge of the global economic tsunami that’s so pervasive now. One of the ways we’ve survived has been by buying a house, fixing it up, and selling it for a profit. That’s all over, and we are now stuck with our current house and a mortgage that needs to be paid. So I’ve been thinking of ways to make money from a house without actually selling it.  
garden-shed1Garden cottage, basement, attic, storeroom, shed – anything you can do up and rent out to tenants. No one is getting home loans so being an owner right now is an advantage. You have what people want and can’t get – accommodation. Letting out space means a monthly income at the cost of privacy, but you know what they say about beggars. 


Forget the roses and poppies and think carrots and beans. Turn all those flower beds into veggie patches and feed your family. If things get as bad as the prophets of doom predict, you can barter – potatoes for a haircut, parsnips for dentistry. It worked in the Great Depression and it’ll be good to go in the Great Recession too.
If holidays are still something on your agenda don’t spend money on hotels or B & B’s, do a Home Exchange. We swapped our house in Sedgefield for an apartment in Berlin and had a fabulous holiday for little more than the price of the air tickets. Read about our exchange here. home-business

Run your business from home if you can. The local hairdresser has given up her premises in the shopping centre and is trading from her converted laundry. She passes on the rental discount to her customers so everyone is happy. A few roads away a woman is using her swimming pool to give lessons to kids and aqua-cise classes to their moms.


We’re lucky enough to live in a place that has a bumper holiday season over the summer and we have often let our house out to tourists. It’s a hassle getting everything into shape and cleaning away a years worth of family living, but well worth it for a daily rate. My mom lives close by so we all descend into her garden cottage. If you don’t live in a holiday destination look at big events locally when people will need accommodation – conferences, trade fairs etc. Even Johannesburg is going to be uber-desirable during the 2010 World Cup.
If any of you have more ideas on making money from that big millstone round your neck, I’d love it if you’d let me know!  

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